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IN-VISIBLE Academia: Doing re-composition. A study of blended families in Milano, Italy.


"In my utopian vision I manage to contribute with my research to… Change the perspective in which blended families and families generally are defined, and in this way influencing how policies may be more supportive and inclusive, distancing from a 19th century idea of the nuclear heterosexual monogamous family."

Who do you think of, when you hear the word family? A lot of people would probably answer, a mother, a father, one or two kids. The concept of the family thus is strongly linked to normative ideas about the family, defining how it should be. Matteo Zani works on a qualitative and participatory research project aiming at queering up these concepts, albeit comprehending family practices within blended families. He does so by using a queer approach, which means going beyond conventional criteria in defining families such as consanguinity, affinity or cohabitation.


Gender dynamics play a significant role in social and cultural contexts of families


With this project, Matteo wants to shift the perspective in which blended families and families generally are defined. He hopes that this could influence how policies may be more supportive and inclusive, distancing from a 19th century idea of the nuclear heterosexual monogamous family.


In his PhD project in the social science factually at the Università Milano-Bicocca, Matteo understands gender as one significant dynamic in his research. He is interested in how the construction of different genders may happen in social and cultural context and affect relations, behaviors, attitudes and paths of life. In particular, he is focusing how in 'unconventional' families, the construction of masculinities and femininities may take different directions.


Epistemological bias may affect how families are usually regarded and defined


Matteo is not just a researcher, but also a queer person and interested in different topics in and out the academic world related to social diversity, intimacy, sexualities, and gender construction. The project about blended families (families where at least one of the parent had a previous relationship ended in separation) is important because in the field of sociology of family, there are some literature gaps concerning these family constellations. Matteo says that the way the family is defined, is often very normative and "some epistemological bias may affect how families are usually regarded and defined".


Matteo thus decided to use an approach that is based on practices, giving space to the way things are done in blended families with an explorative mindset. Matteo says:"It is possible to look at families in a different perspective, based on how they are done, rather than how they essentially (should) be. This may open a debate on how families boundaries may be more fluid and based on different criteria such as intimacy, mutual care and friendship." We would like to thank Matteo for contributing to the Academia Spotlights and wish him all the best for his research.


IN-VISIBLE ACADEMIA - a platform for Gender Studies researchers


This feature is part of IN-VISIBLE ACADEMIA, a platform for research from the fields of Gender Studies, with the goal to make it more visible and accessible to a broader public from areas of politics, business and administration. For this purpose, we feature a researcher and their work every 4-6 weeks on our Social Media channels. The goal is to help Gender Studies research gain more visibility and thereby to build awareness about its meaning and relevance for society. We thus hope to provide alternative content to the anti-feminist hate speech and backlash that is increasingly associated with Gender Studies on social media.

The open call is still open to all researchers in the field of Gender Studies


You can participate here. This project is run by IN-VISIBLE and MARGHERITA-VON-BRENTANO-ZENTRUM. For us, it is of secondary importance whether you are a professor, research assistant, or doing post-doc research - we are interested in your research if you feel like your results should be made more available to a broader public. We explicitly do not want to exclude anyone on the basis of their academic degree. The only criteria here is that you have had some sort of publication success with your topic and that, accordingly, our community could peek into it. If this applies to you, then you are welcome to participate. The incoming applications will be viewed by us and - if suitable - shared via our channels in the form of features.



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